Procrastination and Self-Esteem Research Paper

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Self Procrast

The Effects of Self-Esteem Level on Degrees/Frequencies of Procrastination: A Survey Study

That there is a relationship between procrastination and self-esteem is well-established in previous and current research literature, however the nature of this relationship remains largely unknown. A survey study using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem instrument and the Lay Procrastination scale was conducted to shed further light on this area of inquiry. Findings show a direct and inverse correlation between self-esteem and procrastination, with a more extreme difference noticeable amongst those with low self-esteem/high procrastination.

The relationship between levels of self-esteem and the degree and/or frequency to which a given individual is prone to procrastination has been the subject of a great deal of research and scholarship over the past several decades (Beck et al., 2000; Ferrari, 2000; Steel, 2007; Lupien et al., 2010; Deniz, 2011; Powers et al., 2011; Saleem & Rafique, 2012; etc.). Much of this research has focused on procrastination as a self-defeating behavior that is meant to protect self-esteem and/or that is destructive to self-esteem (Beck at el, 2000; Lupien et al., 2010; Powers et al., 2011). While it has been difficult if not impossible to demonstrate or measure a direction of causality, almost all of the research examining these issues (all of the research encountered by this author concludes that there is a strong correlation between self-esteem and procrastination (Beck et al., 2000; Ferrari, 2000; Steel, 2007; Lupien et al., 2010; Deniz, 2011; Powers et al., 2011; Saleem & Rafique, 2012).

Interestingly, there is a fair amount of disagreement in recently published research as to whether the correlation or relationship between levels of self-esteem and degrees/frequencies of procrastination is inverse (that higher levels of self-esteem are correlated with lower degrees/frequencies of procrastination) or direct (that is, that higher self-esteem is actually correlated with an increase in procrastination). Several studies have actually found substantial evidence for the latter theory, suggesting that procrastination may indeed play a protective element for self-esteem or possibly that high self-esteem simply leads to confidence and thus an increased willingness to procrastinate (Beck et al., 2000; Lupien et al., 2010; Deniz, 2011; Saleem & Rafique, 2012). Others have found an opposite relationship, in which increased degrees or frequencies of procrastination are more strongly associated with lower levels of self-esteem (Ferrari, 2000; Powers et al., 2011). Though some of this discrepancy might be the result of differences in methodology, such as the use of self-reporting to measure procrastination in some studies, situational differences in the populations and situations studied are most likely the primary result of this controversy.

This research does not attempt to determine a causal link between procrastination and self-esteem or to resolve or explain this controversy, but rather is purposed towards validating this line of research inquiry as a whole and adding evidence to the correlation between self-esteem and correlation to further guide ongoing analysis and inquiry. The data collected and analyzed here is not as conclusive as that found in other studies, however this in and of itself is important in the co0ntext of the ongoing uncertainties of the relationship between levels of self-esteem and degrees or frequencies of procrastination, as will be discussed in greater depth below. Though no firm conclusions regarding the precise nature, strength, or direction of the relationship that exists between these behavioral and personality elements examined, this study does shed new insights into the still-active research area and provides strong guidance for further inquiry.


Two previously constructed survey instruments were used to measure levels of self-esteem and degrees/frequencies of procrastination in the research participants. Though this does lead to some potential for bias and inaccuracy due to the self-reported nature of the data collected via these instruments -- a persistent problem in the research as there is no effective means of measuring procrastination behaviors in a natural setting over the long-term, and no means at all of measuring self-esteem without some level of self-reporting/self-analysis on the part of the subjects -- these well-validated instruments will correct for this potential to a large degree. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem survey and scale was used to measure participants' self-esteem levels; this instrument continues to be validated for use with populations of wide ages and backgrounds and is of sound construct both in its theoretical underpinnings and in the practicalities of its delivery to and completion by participants (Beshlideh et al., 2012; Mullen et al., 2012). The Lay Procrastination survey instrument, which similarly continues top be validated through ongoing research and direct testing and which has been paired with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem instrument in similar research that was conducted previously, was also used in this study (Saleem & Rafique, 2012).

Both questionnaires were given out at random and were collected in person by the researcher. Results were analyzed using standard SPSS statistical software from IBM in a using the software's one-way ANOVA function, which provides a range of summary statistics and other output in addition to the primary measures of correlation between the two selected variables. Interpretation of these results was assisted through the use of standard statistical texts, and preliminary results were initially analyzed for validity and to ensure the accuracy of the testing procedures. Full interpretation of the results and a discussion of their implications was conducted with ongoing reference to both statistical texts and previous research in the area, again to ensure validity as well as to provide a broader appropriate contextualization for these findings and deeper insights into their implications.

Results and Discussion

The calculated Levene statistic output by the SPSS analysis is 0.020, less than the standard alpha of 0.05, suggesting that the variances between responses are significant. This in and of itself does not provide a great deal of information regarding the specific research question at hand, but does serve to validate the research and the instruments used in that notable and significant differences have been found in procrastination, self-esteem, and other personality and behavioral areas as measured by the two survey instruments utilized. The initial ANOVA results are somewhat less promising, with a Sig. value of 0.108 suggesting that the means for all responses do not differ significantly, however this is again tangential to the research question.

The frequency distribution for the self-esteem measure shows that the population of research subjects had relatively high self-esteem, skewing towards the higher end of the rather wide range of self-esteem scores. The mean of 20 is only ten data points shy of the maximum measured self-esteem level in this study, at 30, and is seventeen points higher than the lowest self-esteem measure in the study, which had a value of only three. Research subjects were eventually classed into one of three groups for self-esteem -- low, medium, or high -- and these classifications also show the heavy top-end skewing of the data: only five subjects were made a part of the "low" self-esteem group, while the "normal" self-esteem group had a total population of 59 and the "high" self-esteem group was assigned 56 individuals. The descriptive statistics for each group already show an observable trend, with higher self-esteem correlating (at least at first glance) with lower levels of procrastination: the "low" self-esteem group had a mean procrastination sore of 66.4, the "normal" group of 53.5, and the group of "high" self-esteem subjects had a mean procrastination score of 48.

The second calculated Levene statistic of 0.151 means that the null hypothesis that the error variance of the dependent variable is equal across all groups is not rejected. Tests of between-level subjects shows a strong and significant correlation between self-esteem and procrastination as measured in this study, with significance levels at 0.002 or below. Along with the above-cited correlation observed in the descriptive statistics of each group between self-esteem and procrastination, this provides a more direct answer to the research question.

These two pieces of output from the SPSS ANOVA test show that there is unquestionably a strong inverse correlation between levels of self-esteem and degrees or frequencies of procrastination behaviors amongst the subjects of the research population. Those individuals that participated in the research and showed higher levels of self-esteem had lower scores on the procrastination survey than did those with lower self-esteem. This does not resolve the controversy described above regarding the relationship between self-esteem and procrastination but rather deepens it further, as it adds a clear piece of evidence to one side of the argument (i.e. The claim that self-esteem is inversely correlated with procrastination, such that those with high self-esteem procrastinate less) derived from a broad and diverse population. Whereas many previous studies have only included participants from a specific subgroup of the total population -- students or working adults, for instance -- this research study and the randomly distributed surveys covered a much wider demographic base (Deniz, 2011; Beshlideh et al., 2012; Mullen et al., 2012). As it was assumed that much of the controversy in previous research results could be explained by the different sub-populations and circumstances experienced by the research participants, such conclusive and highly significant…[continue]

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